LUDLOW, Ky. — Twice last basketball season, quarantine rules kept Kelly Gaiser's youngest son, Adam, away from Ludlow High School and teammates, even though he had no symptoms and no positive coronavirus test.
"When he's not playing, he's not happy," Gaiser said. "He misses his friends, you know. Even though they play online games and talk to their friends, it's still not that one-on-one interaction."
Four weeks into the new school year and coronavirus quarantines are still dominating what is, and isn't, going on in school, said Jason Steffen, Ludlow Schools director of teaching and learning.
"Students (are) struggling with social interactions and social cues and peer interactions we haven't seen before," he said.
That is why Steffen, a former principal in charge of district-wide learning, ordered four machines to speed up COVID-19 test-result turnaround times. Steffen hopes faster turnaround times will prevent students from going into lengthy quarantine periods.
He said while the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the district is small, current quarantine rules are keeping students and staff with close contacts home for a seven-day minimum . . . and that in turn is hurting student performance. And not just academically.
"They haven't tailed off and decline, but what they have is usually there is a trajectory of where students should be, and what we've seen is they're not hitting their trajectory targets of where they should be," Steffen said.
The issue of student performance and behavior is not a uniquely Ludlow problem, either.
"We thought for sure this was behind us and then we get hit with this variant, the delta variant," said Craig Hockenberry, Poland Local Schools superintendent.
In Ohio, districts as far north as Youngstown, where Poland schools are located, are looking to change rules with rapid test results.
Eight days into school, Hockenberry said 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases among students have forced 141 healthy children with no symptoms to miss 10 days of class. That, in turn, led to a mask mandate to make contact tracing easier.
"It's taking up all the administrators' time," Hockenberry said. "So, instead of leading and working on innovative ideas with instruction and working with kids, we're spending all of our time making sure kids aren't too close to others and calling their parents and having them come get them."
Based on guidance from the Northern Kentucky Health Department, Ludlow's new test-and-stay policy lets parents sign off on daily antigen testing for seven days for any student exposed to COVID-19 on campus.
Parents can bring results or let staff test on campus, according to the rules. Days one and five of school also demand testing to ensure accurate test results.
And as long as children test negative under the new system, they can go to class immediately and not miss a day of school.
Administrators such as Steffen hope the policy keeps more students in school.